By Tien-Shun Lee
The Fresh Meadow Poets group was awarded $5,000 in grant money from the Queens Community Arts Fund last month to continue its efforts to promote poetry among people of all ages in the borough.
“For a few years, the Fresh Meadow Poets have gotten grants from us,” said Lynn Lobell, the director of the Queens Community Arts Fund, a program under the Queens Council on the Arts that distributes about $200,000 every year to Queens artists and cultural groups. “It's a competitive process. We get grants from funders, and we give them to the community.”
Of the $5,000 given to the Fresh Meadow Poets, $1,000 came from the city Department of Cultural Affairs to be used for the group's high school and senior citizen poetry contests. The rest came from the New York State Council on the Arts to be used for publications and for producing TV shows about the group's activities that are broadcast on Queens Public Television.
Broadcast events include the group's monthly poetry readings, biweekly poetry workshops and annual poetry awards ceremonies.
“We have about 45 members. Most are published poets, although we are open to anybody who wants to join,” said Carl Angeleri, 90, the treasurer of the Fresh Meadow Poets who is a retired professional musician and writes poetry occasionally. “Of our members, we have a lot of former teachers, former principals of schools, published poets.”
The poetry group, whose members are almost all from Queens, was founded in 1985 by Angeleri's wife, Lucy Angeleri, 75. Members pay $25 a year to be part of the group.
According to Angeleri, his wife, a professional poet, was approached by the head of the Queens public library system in 1985 after one of her poetry readings at a coffee house in Manhattan. The head of the library, who lived in Fresh Meadows, asked Lucy Angeleri if she would consider running a poetry workshop in Queens that would be funded by his system.
Lucy Angeleri agreed to organize an eight-week poetry workshop that was held in the Fresh Meadows branch library. After eight weeks, the workshops had about 20 regular members, and she and two other poets decided to apply for a state charter to become a certified, tax-free organization.
Over the years, the group expanded its activities to include contests, readings, TV shows, an annual publication and more workshops in different libraries in Forest Hills, Rego Park and Jackson Heights.
This year biweekly poetry workshops are being held at the Windsor Park public library branch at 79-50 Bell Blvd. in Bayside. Monthly poetry readings, which usually feature a key reader and about 35 open-mic readers, are held the third Tuesday of every month at the Barnes & Noble at 7000 Austin St. in Forest Hills.
Fliers to advertise the annual poetry contest for high school students were sent out in the beginning of the month, said Angeleri. Winners will be chosen by a contest committee made up of five Fresh Meadow Poetry group poets. They will read their poetry and be presented with awards at a ceremony in May that will be aired on Channels 34 and 35, the local public access channels.
The first prize winner will be awarded $250; the second prize $200; and the third prize $150. Ten honorable mentions will also be given out.
In October, a similar ceremony will be held for the winners of the senior citizens' poetry contest. At around the same time, “Freshet,” the group's annual anthology of poetry, will be published.
“We are promoting poetry in Queens,” said Angeleri. “This is the only poetry group that I know of in Queens.”
Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by email at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.